The United Nations adopted the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2000 that would help guide global development for the following 15 years. Realizing that they are not reaching the internationally agreed-upon goals a need for a more realistic agenda was recommended called the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The SDGs cover a wider spectrum of challenges such as poverty, gender equality, and climate change to name a few. Each goal has specific targets that can be measured thus making the SDGs significantly comprehensive and accountable. There is a vital need for young people to be key players in the decision-making processes addressed by the SDGs, as they are the immediate beneficiaries.
There are 1.8 billion young people between the ages of 10 and 24 years old meaning that half of the world’s population is under the age of 25 consequently the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals will only be possible with the complete participation young people. Being 1.8 billion strong, this by far is the largest youth populace in history.
Young people as key partners are necessary to ensure importance and efficacy of the development agenda. Many of the challenges we face as young people are being addressed in the SDGs therefore it is important that we are part of the co-creating practice of the future hoped for.
The goal of governance mentioned in Goal 16 calls for peaceful and inclusive societies for suitable development, access to justice, and effective and accountable institutions at all levels. Therefore, we need to focus on targets around accountable, transparent, participatory, and responsive decision-making processes. Thus young people addressing Goal 16 will ensure the SDGs support youth-friendly decision-making, policy development, and implementation.
The rapidly changing world presents a myriad of challenges to leaders in the 21st Century and demands those in leadership to understand the prevailing climate. For effective leadership we must close the generational gap and see problems in a new way as opportunities rather than obstacles.
Young people are key players who have the strength and the imagination to create a world they desire but not without the wisdom and experience of the old guard. The question has never been about us vs. them or waiting for those ahead to pass the baton but rather the collective participation of all parties to run together. As young people we need to take responsibility for the kind of world we want to create. We need to actively participate and engage governance conversations and become accountable for the developmental agenda.
As young people we have to as a collective own our voice and power. In order for democracy to fully operate we need to not only limit our citizenship to and from the ballot but also engage in civic participation. This form of participation is mutually beneficial for elected officials as well as civil society. We give up our right to grumble if we are not active participants in the democratic process.
The young people move organizations and the country from paralysis to passion. When we become too preoccupied with policy, procedure and conformity we begin to kill the life of the nation. Young people are the ones who bring the future to the conversation. With technology today young people have overcome limitations of geography and resources by connecting to people from all over the world across digital platforms such as social media.
It is important to ask ourselves have we made it impossible for the go-getters, the rising stars and the mavericks to live within our society? Young people are mavericks because they see the world fundamentally through different lens to their predecessors.
Over the long term young people have a distinct advantage: they’re not going away they have fire in their eyes. The one great advantage that older people have over younger ones is perspective. They have already been young. Their viewpoint gives us a certain amount of wisdom unavailable to any younger generation. However, what youth has are passion and ideals. We both share a certain amount of both perceptivity and zeal though it may not be in the same quantity.
A common liberal arrogance among young people is that of being superior in knowledge and condescending of parents and figures of authority. We have little or no regard for the sacrifices of our elders. Hence, young people usually come across judgmental. We measure others to a standard of virtue and conduct that only we think we possess. This has been the result of young people being isolated and not being active contributors. Therefore if young people do not have a meaningful voice on the table we will be left to create our own table.
Bernardus Steven Harageib is an emerging leader whose dream is to rewrite the narrative of not only Namibian youth but youth across Africa. He has a Bachelor of Arts Social Work Honors Degree from the University of Namibia. He has been part of various social justice initiatives including The Young Achievers Empowerment Project, which he co-founded in 2004. He has been involved in campus ministry equipping students for market place impact passed seven years. He appears on several youth programs and radio broadcasts. He is a One Young World Ambassador and won Outstanding Delegate as well as Class President 2015/2016 at the Preparing Global Leaders Institute in Macedonia.